Liberal Democrats Senator Duncan Spender has slammed the Australian Tax Office for its mistreatment of small businesses, as exposed by the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.
“Unfortunately the Ombudsman has confirmed what I already suspected: that the taxman is enforcing its debt recovery actions on small businesses, despite appeals processes still taking place,” he said.
“The fact that this was found to be occurring in at least 12% of cases is further cause for concern.
“While the Ombudsman has ordered the ATO to cease debt recovery action immediately, I’m concerned such maltreatment of small businesses will continue.
“The ATO should not have the power to reach into the backpockets of Australian small business owners to recover alleged debt, especially when the said debt is being contested.
“The ATO is garnishing the bank accounts of unsuspecting business owners, which puts their ability to pay wages, rent, overheads and supplier fees at huge risk. They are literally swiping the money out of the bank accounts of small businesses before any ongoing disputes have even been settled.
“Small businesses are already facing an uphill battle in this country. The last thing they need is the taxman preying on them when they are vulnerable.
“All Australians, including small business owners, need a low tax future. If elected, I pledge to make the necessary legislative amendments to ensure money made by small owners remains in their pockets, especially while ATO disputes are ongoing.”
The Ombudsman’s review into the ATO was conducted following a 2018 expose by ABC’s Four Corners and Fairfax Media that showed alleged unfair treatment and heavy-handed tactics towards small business owners. The final report was released on Monday and is available here.